When I read Mark 1:29-39, I can’t help but think of the many pastors, church planters, and leaders I’ve met over the years. You might ask, “Why would these verses make you think of Christian leaders?” and to that I would respond by saying that these verses contain the spoken and unspoken dreams of most Christian leaders. Our deepest longings and hopes for what ministry could look like are found here.
Prioritizing Prayer in Every Phase of Ministry
I don’t know of any church planter and pastor who doesn’t long for their church to be part of what we see in these verses. At the core of every healthy church and Christian leader is a yearning to see people healed and restored by Jesus. Reading of an entire town coming to Jesus brings me back to when I first confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life at the age of 14. I shed many tears and offered many prayers for my family, friends, and my beloved NYC. It stirs my soul to imagine all of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Manhattan coming to Jesus and experiencing his healing power this way!
At the height of all this, Jesus does one of the strangest things ever. He doesn’t hire a film crew to capture all that is going on. He doesn’t create a really great Instagram page to share the countless insta-stories a moment like we would today. He doesn’t go on a speaking tour to teach others how they can replicate this model. He simply walks away! He walks away from ministry success and fruitfulness that we all dream about. Why did Jesus do this? How did Jesus do this?
The stunning answer is found in verses 35-39. In the midst of one of the busiest moments of ministry, at the height of fruitfulness and when he was in high demand, we see Jesus waking up early and going to a solitary place to pray. This is a scene that we see repeated in the life of Jesus throughout the Gospels. He remained faithful to his habit of solitary prayer. Jesus had a full plate of ministry (to say the least); yet he was never too busy to pray. It was his priority to pray no matter what was going on. The busier life became, the more you could count on Jesus going off to pray early in the morning.
Greater Intimacy Before Greater Influence
Leadership and ministry can quickly become focused on pleasing people or building our platform, and when that happens, we become slaves to it. Stepping away from ministry influence in order to cultivate intimacy with the Father is unthinkable when we value fame more than we value being with the Father. Selfish ambition can so easily be baptized and celebrated in Christian circles. The gravitational pull of all this can be so strong; yet Jesus was able to walk away from it because he wasn’t moved by the crowds – he was moved by the Father. Greater intimacy, not greater influence is what anchored Jesus, and prayer was the means to feed his intimacy and resist the trappings of fame.
Building the Church through Kingdom Prayer
At CTC, when we talk about Kingdom Prayer, we dream of churches having a vibrant life of prayer that deeply connects and activates the people of God to the mission of God. Imagine if churches in our city prayed and lived in such a way that we would see the Kingdom of God come in the same power, healing, and restoration that we see taking place here in Mark 1! Yet, as much as we long to see our city encounter Jesus, we are reminded that the foundation of all this is abiding intimacy with the Father. Kingdom influence without intimacy with the King will result in us building our own personal kingdoms and not his.
As 2021 moves forward, may we take our cues from Jesus and always prioritize intimacy with the Father above all things. In our desire to see fruit and ministry effectiveness, may our greater desire be to know the Father cause only then can we be confident that his Kingdom will be built and not ours.